Of all the news that came out of Monday’s Apple WWDC keynote, one tidbit that didn’t get much attention is worthy of note: Apple’s refresh of its 13-inch laptop brought back the FireWire port that had been removed when the first 13-inch unibody MacBook shipped last October. In fact, Apple upgraded the connection, giving the new laptop a FireWire-800 port rather than the FireWire-400 one it had done away with last year. The return of FireWire in even beefier form is presumably a big part of why Apple was comfortable in redubbing the laptop that had been known as a mere MacBook as a MacBook Pro. Among Macs, only the MacBook Air, a computer so thin it barely has room for ports at all, lacks FireWire.
It’s a truly surprising development. Apple has historically been aggressive about erring on the side of removing technologies from its computers early, and while it often catches flack at the time, other PC manufacturers tend to fall into line eventually. When it killed FireWire on the 13-inch MacBook last year it made lots of folks very angry, but Steve Jobs himself apparently thought it was not a big deal. And so did I. In fact, I thought that other Macs would begin to lose their FireWire. I was wrong.
I can’t think of another instance in which Apple has moved to retire a technology and then changed its mind. (If there have been any, I know you’ll tell me.) It’s a little as if the second-generation iMac had brought back the floppy drive.
I’m still guessing that the company’s instinct is that FireWire is at the beginning of the end of its useful life, and that we’ll see lower-end Macs without it in the not-too-distant future. But for now, score one for FireWire fans–and for Apple, too, since it showed it was listening.
Me, I’m more excited about the fact that the company is finally shipping laptops with built-in slots for SD cards…